Lot 206
  • 206

Tiffany Studios

20,000 - 30,000 USD
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  • Tiffany Studios
  • A Rare "Scarab" Stamp Box
  • favrile mosaic glass, favrile glass and gilt bronze


Private Collection, Florida
Sotheby's New York, March 23, 1996, lot 412
Private Collection, New Jersey
Sotheby's New York, June 12, 1998, lot 297
Louis C. Tiffany Garden Museum, Japan
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Takeo Horiuchi, ed., The World of Louis Comfort Tiffany: A Selection from the Anchorman Collection, Nagoya, Japan, 1994, p. 131
John Loring, Louis Comfort Tiffany at Tiffany & Co., New York, 2002, p. 193
Alastair Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany: The Garden Museum Collection, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2004, pp. 367 and 370
Marilynn A. Johnson, Louis Comfort Tiffany: Artist for the Ages, London, 2005, p. 207
Alastair Duncan, Tiffany Lamps and Metalware, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2007, pp. 394, no. 1598 and 397, no. 1611
Louis Comfort Tiffany: Couleurs et Lumière, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Montréal, 2010, p. 192, cat. 157


Overall very good condition. The mosaic favrile glass appears to be all original and undisturbed, with approximately 11 tiles concentrated mainly along the lower edge with scattered small clamshell chips. Most of these clamshells are minute, the largest measures approximately 1/4 inch, visible in the catalogue illustration on the lower front edge. The bronze surfaces with scattered surface scratches, abrasions and rubbing to the gilt patina throughout, consistent with age and gentle handling. The favrile glass scarabs in good condition with scattered extremely minor surface scratches. The interior of the box with some scattered extremely minor areas of pitting, surface soiling to the recessed areas, rubbing, and minor surface scratches. The interior of the lid with a small surface stain near the midpoint of the hinge. Formerly in the collection of the Louis C. Tiffany Garden Museum, Japan, this lot is accompanied by its custom, velvet-lined Garden Museum box. A superb example from Tiffany’s fancy goods series with rich decoration and intense coloration and iridization, exemplifying the firm’s unparalleled craftsmanship, artistry, and flair for extravagance. When viewed in person the box displays with an array of vibrant blues and oranges with strong luminous iridescence that is highly complementary to the rich gilt patina.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Louis C. Tiffany incorporated glass mosaics into many of his earliest interior design commissions, including the Seventh Regiment Armory (1880), the Church of the Divine Paternity (1881) and the mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1883). These first attempts were highly experimental yet surprisingly sophisticated, as Tiffany was attempting to master a new and totally unfamiliar decorative technique. America in the late 19th Century had no tradition and little knowledge in the field, with most of the work being commissioned from Italian firms and the final product then exported to the United States.

With the surge of church construction in America in the 1880s, there was a growing demand for the decoration of these new interiors. Tiffany, beginning with his Tiffany Glass Company (1885-1892) and concluding with Tiffany Studios (1902-1932), was soon entrenched in the ecclesiastical leaded glass window business. While this satisfied the glorification of large exposed openings, many churches also wanted to enhance their interior walls and Tiffany saw this as the perfect opportunity to expand his mosaic department.

Tiffany’s desire for expansion in the field, however, faced a major stumbling block. Because there was no established mosaic industry in this country, the number of available skilled craftsmen was severely limited. The easiest option, to hire Italian mosaicists, did not appeal to Tiffany, as he felt those men would be too entrenched in traditional methods. Wanting a totally innovative approach in the field, both artistically and technically, Tiffany took the novel and controversial step of hiring women: “He concluded that the persons who could do this work most successfully were the young women from the art schools in this city [New York]. He believed that they had their color sense more fully developed than any men he could get, that they were trained in form and the use of their hands.”1

Clara Wolcott Driscoll (1861-1944) soon became head of Tiffany’s Women’s Glass Cutting Department and production of mosaic ornamentations for both ecclesiastical and civic commissions began in earnest. As the firm’s work became better known and received international acclaim, prosperous Americans desired to demonstrate their wealth and good taste by having Tiffany mosaics in their homes. Tiffany, to meet this demand, began producing a line of so-called fancy goods featuring mosaic work that included small plaques, tea stands and various desk accessories. The stamp box (lot 206) offered here is a fine example, with small rectangular tesserae of iridescent Favrile glass shading from navy to green to orange-red to gold. The cover, enhanced with two large iridescent gold Favrile beetles with cast gilt-bronze legs and flanking a gilt-metal hemisphere, is highly reminiscent of the design used on some of the company’s carved wood humidors.

Of greater significance were the company’s bronze lamp bases decorated with Favrile mosaics and two of the finest examples are included here. The “Cobweb” lamp was made in two sizes, the larger having a base with a mosaic motif of bright white and yellow flowering narcissus. The base of the smaller model (lot 222), with a subtler and less literal motif, is probably more harmonious and as finely crafted with the small tesserae expertly placed between the superbly cast and patinated bronze wheat stalks. The result is a stylized landscape, with the mosaics shading from violet and purple at the bottom and gradually progressing to blue, with horizontal cloud-shaped passages of iridescent gold below the shoulder. The use of wheat stalks is a curious design choice, but an answer might be found in Louis Tiffany’s early days as an artist. He painted at least seven works featuring wheat fields between 1873 and circa 1881, beginning the series with a “gentle and harmonious” Connecticut scene. A better-known painting is his “Reapers,” painted in 1879, which featured a stretch of ripened wheat with dark orchard trees in the background. That painting, just as the mosaic work on this lamp base, is “full of light and air, and the color, though necessarily rich from the nature of the subject, is subdued and quiet.”2

The base for the “Dragonfly” table lamp (lot 211) also exhibits a marvelous combination of cast bronze and iridescent Favrile tesserae. Tiffany Studios produced an earlier model of the base that was able to accommodate a kerosene fuel canister. In that squat, ovoid example, the five cast bronze dragonflies flit at an upward diagonal over flowering arrowroot against an iridescent mosaic ground. This later model, introduced a few years later, perhaps better suits the dimensions of the shade. The platform of the base has three beautifully formed dragonflies, with their spread wings almost touching and long tails extending to the slender column. Directly below them is a narrow rippled bronze band simulating flowing water. A bronze branch irregularly spirals around the column. Those sections left uncovered by the dragonflies and branch are replete with iridescent tesserae in gradated shades of blue and green. It was lamps such as this example that caused one early critic to proclaim: “The superb conceptions of Mr. Louis C. Tiffany, as shown in his ‘favrile glass’ and in his marvelous leaded windows, metal lamps, glass mosaics, have never been surpassed, and make our foreign fellow-craftsmen envious to despair.”3

PAUL DOROS, former curator of glass at the Chrysler Museum (Norfolk, Virginia) and author of The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany (New York: Vendome Press), 2013

“Glass in Rainbow Hues,” The (New York) Sun, January 16, 1898, p. 5.
“Among the Pictures,” The North American (Philadelphia), November 4, 1879, p. 1. I would like to thank Roberta Mayer for sharing her information on this series of paintings.
3 “The Arts and Crafts Movement at Home and Abroad,” Brush and Pencil, vol. 6, no. 3 (June 1900), p. 121.